Associated Press: Fees undermine fliers’ ability to compare fares
January 2nd, 2013

APAn in-depth article by Joan Lowy of the Associated Press,  Fees undermine fliers’ ability to compare fares, details how airlines are making it difficult for consumers to comparison shop for the true all-in cost (fares+fees+taxes) of air travel and how the Department of Transportation is considering a new rule to address this important consumer issue:

For many passengers, air travel is only about finding the cheapest fare.

But as airlines offer a proliferating list of add-on services, from early boarding to premium seating and baggage fees, the ability to comparison-shop for the lowest total fare is eroding.

Global distribution systems that supply flight and fare data to travel agents and online ticketing services like Orbitz and Expedia, accounting for half of all U.S. airline tickets, complain that airlines won’t provide fee information in a way that lets them make it handy for consumers trying to find the best deal.

“What other industry can you think of where a person buying a product doesn’t know how much it’s going to cost even after he’s done at the checkout counter?” said Simon Gros, chairman of the Travel Technology Association, which represents the global distribution services and online travel industries.

The harder airlines make it for consumers to compare, “the greater opportunity you have to get to higher prices,” said Kevin Mitchell, chairman of the Business Travel Coalition, whose members include corporate travel managers.

Now the Obama administration is wading into the issue. The Department of Transportation is considering whether to require airlines to provide fee information to everyone with whom they have agreements to sell their tickets. A decision originally scheduled for next month has been postponed to May, as regulators struggle with a deluge of information from airlines opposed to regulating fee information, and from the travel industry and consumer groups that support such a requirement.